FOR too long education has been used as a political football – left versus right and state versus private.

This must stop for the sake of our children and, ultimately, the future of our nation.

I do not profess to be an expert in education but academic results prove that many state schools compete with the best in the independent sector.

Sadly, others fail, and badly. One in five children leaves school unable to read or write, a shocking statistic.

Worse, the Organisation for Economic Development has found that for the first time, older people retiring from the workforce are better educated than school leavers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is determined to put that right. A radical thinker, he has refused to accept that certain children will never do well.

Instead, he believes in encouraging them to be the best they can be.

He has given head teachers more freedom to tackle low standards and bad discipline in some of our state schools.

Until now, 50 per cent of teachers left the profession within the first five years.

This year, more top graduates chose teaching over any other career.

Now Mr Gove wants state schools to provide the longer hours, increased homework and clubs and societies seen predominantly in the private sector.

Evidence shows that well trained teachers, teaching specialist subjects to motivated students, will succeed.

The new Academy of Excellence in deprived Newham, East London, has proved to be a spectacular success, sending six sixth-formers to Oxford and Cambridge this year.

Its headmaster says he wants to raise students’ expectations and aspirations. Mr Gove shares that dream. So, too, do many parents, employers and universities.

For 20 years, our nation’s educational attainment has been sliding down the international league tables.

These reforms might just reverse that decline.